February 17th, 2011
02:02 PM ET

High school athlete refuses to wrestle female opponent

By Jim Kavanagh, CNN

A high school wrestler in wrestling-crazy Iowa forfeited a tournament match Thursday after refusing to grapple with a female opponent.

"As a matter of conscience and my faith, I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner," Joel Northrup said in a written statement, according to the Des Moines Register.

Northrup is home-schooled but wrestles as a 112-pound sophomore for Linn-Mar High School in Marion, Iowa. He was a state title contender with a 35-4 record, CNN affiliate KCRG-TV reported.

His erstwhile opponent, Cassy Herkelman of Cedar Falls, advanced by default at Des Moines’ Wells Fargo Arena.

Herkelman (20-13), a freshman, and Ottumwa, Iowa sophomore Megan Black (25-13) are the first two girls ever to qualify for the state individual tournament, which goes back to 1926.

Black lost her opening-round match and moved to the consolation bracket. If both Northrup and Black win twice in the consolation bracket, they will be paired in the third round, forcing Northrup again to decide whether to wrestle a girl.

Northrup, the son of a minister, had indicated after the first pairings were announced Sunday that he might take the forfeit.

"My understanding is that they've got strict convictions (as a family), and I respect them," Herkelman's father, Bill, told the Register at the time. "I don't have any ill will toward them and I don't think it's any kind of boycott about her being a girl."

Northrup said as much in his statement:

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Cassy and Megan and their accomplishments. However, wrestling is a combat sport and it can get violent at times. ... It is unfortunate that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most of the high school sports in Iowa."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Pastors • Sports

soundoff (2,288 Responses)
  1. Realist

    Sound's like he didn't want to be beaten by a girl.............

    February 17, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • John Galt

      Kind of a no win situation for the kid. Either you get beaten by a girl and take that flack or you beat a girl and no one respects you or your opponent. Goliath was in the same no win situation when facing David.. if Goliath wins you just say well yeah of course he's Goliath. David in that role is always in the better situation.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  2. Old man of Midwest

    I will not argue the social aspects of his decision or the merit that led him to make this decision; however, some of us who've been men for over a half century may just say, Good man, proud of the choice you've made.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  3. Tony

    How does he avoid getting an erection for the whole world to see?

    February 17, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  4. Mom

    It is a different world..there are over 5,000 girl wrestlers in the US (both of my daughters wrestled Jr. high and high school)...the majority of the wrestle co-ed. At our high school, we had a young lady who went to state all four years and has a university scholarship for wrestling...she was just honored "All-American"...and for those of you who think a girl wrestler would have to be "butch" to wrestle...think again...these young ladies had no trouble getting dates..and we, their parents, didn't have to worry about anyone taking advantage of them either!

    February 17, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  5. Frank McGar

    It's a no-win situation for the guy.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • John Galt


      February 17, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  6. Here's the issue I have

    Here's the main issue I have with girls wrestling. As most wrestlers and followers of wrestling know, nearly every wrestler has a favorite move, there are several holds, moves, techniques that you cannot use when wrestling girls, at least in our state. This is where my issue with girls wrestling lies. If you are going to allow girls to wrestle, there shoudn't be certain "rules" you need to follow or moves you are prevented from using or penalized for, when competing against girls that differ from ones you can use when wrestling boys. The rules should apply to everyone equally.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  7. Jus Saying

    I wonder if he plays other sports? Girls play football, does he play in that game? Hmmmmmm

    February 17, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  8. Joshua Ludd

    While I don't agree with him, I respect his opinion, and it is his right not to do so. If it were a female wrestler who refused to wrestle a male opponent, we would not hear about this at all.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  9. Hites

    This kids gay, obviously.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Bellic

      Yes!! Thank-you for understanding, Hites.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  10. Bellic

    Seriously? K here's what really happened. The boy is gay and doesn't want to touch a girl because he thinks they're icky. That's what happened.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  11. Impressed

    Wow, can this guy meet my daughter?! I am impressed about his beliefs and when reading what Mitch said, I agree, it's not a sport for guys to go against girls. NOTHING about the strength cause we all know women have more inner strength than men will ever have (GUYS, until you give birth you have NO COMMENTS TO SAY ABOUT a woman's inner strength). I am so proud of those two girls for doing what they do. VERY proud, but to find a young man that will sticks to his beliefs that do not pertain to anything related to Black Op in this day and age...is very impressive. Stick to you guns young man, and good luck ladies....kick some butt.

    PS – and for all of you who just can't seem to get it...here is the defination of Homeschooling....READING..it's your friend!!

    Homeschooling means learning outside of the public or private school environment. The word "home" is not really accurate, and neither is "school." For most families, their "schooling" involves being out and about each day, learning from the rich resources available in their community, environment, and through interactions with other families who homeschool.
    Essentially, homeschooling involves a commitment by a parent or guardian to oversees their child or teen's educational development. There are almost two million homeschoolers in this country....

    February 17, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  12. bobdobbs

    He refuses to wrestle a female but has no issues with another male grouping him... Next up a San Francisco parade and Barbara Streisand concert for this young lad.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Really?

      You are a genuine idiot.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  13. TexasJet

    The problem with all of the feminist, is everyone is using the word equal incorrectly. Are men and women inequal, no they are not. The proper way to enter, or discuss this topic is the phrase they have equalities. Is there a difference between a man and a woman driving a car, or flying a fighter jet, no. Are men and women equal on all fronts no, there are differences, upper body strength, hygenic, mental. Take the top female weight lifter, she is not even close to the top male lifter, could the top WNBA team, beat even the worse NBA team, no. They have equalities, but they are certainly not equal. Equal is equal, 1+1=2, not 1.5, or 3, it equals 2. This young man shows an incite rarely seen in teenagers.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • ozzi7

      The word is insight not incite. Obviously, you are home-schooled.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • TexasJet

      Careful son. I am not to old to find you. 🙂

      February 17, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  14. gobus

    Wrestle the girl and win = he loses.
    Wrestle the girl and lose (unlikely)= he loses.

    He would go down as the state chamion that beat a girl.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • rkymthigh

      Excellent point! I wonder how that would have looked in the record books when the brackets were posted?

      February 17, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Luli

      Posted on Your are not worthless. You mean the world to snoeome. You just need to find out who. And don't ever try to take your life ever you are loved by more people than you think.

      March 31, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
  15. Sherrie

    It has been my experience that when kids are homeschooled, they find themselves unable to complete a paragraph of speech without throwing a few "Praise Jesus"'s in there, but I think this boy has a point, religion aside.

    Some sports should absolutely NOT be co-ed. Apart from the violence factor, it is a simple fact that particularly with teenagers there are hormonal issues.

    Normally my sympathies would lie with the girls, but in this case, for the first time I can remember, I do not think they should be allowed to participate.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • ozzi7

      Are you saying that field hockey, lacrosse, gymnastics, basketball, and softball are not violent?

      February 17, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  16. Jus Saying

    He knew girls wrestled in this sport, he could have focused on another sport knowing he could possibly wrestle a girl.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Jess's dad

      ur retarded dude....

      February 17, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • MC

      Wrestling is no place for a girl. I've had a son in the same position as this young man and it was very akward and uncomfortable for him to be placed in a position to wrestle a girl. Also, I have a daughter and I would not let her wrestle, again, girls do not belong in the sport of wrestling!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  17. Larry in PA.

    he would of pinned her in nothing flat. you do not make it to the state level unless your good and his 34 – 5 record says he was very good. for him to choose not to wrestle a girl really has nothing to do with winning or losing. it shows conviction, something he sacrificed for his own beliefs.
    also since when is being home schooled such a terrible thing? public schools suck.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  18. Harry Ball

    I'm not religious like I assume this young man is, but I wouldn't wrestle a woman either. I was always taught that violence against women is wrong. I wouldn't be comfortable in that kind of situation with a woman. Good kids are so few these days. This young man deserves a pat on the back.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • ozzi7

      So are you saying that guys play sports to intentionally injure another guy. That's criminal act.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • jamesmadison

      Ozzi7 – sadly, a lot of guys do play contact sports for the appeal of being able to hurt other guys. I've played football, lacrosse, and wrestled, and all but one of those sports had its fair share of guys either bragging about a good hit that hurt the other guy, or getting excited and fueled by the notion that they are going to get rough and physical with others. The intent isn't to take them out or seriously injure them, but to let them know you can and will hurt them. The contact sport which I never heard or felt that feeling amongst others was wrestling. It's about overpowering and out smarting your opponent, not running full speed to crush someone else. Anyway, it's a guy thing – years of evolution have made us aggressive and physical. Unless the athlete was clearly trying to injure someone (razor sharp buttons, clearly illegal check, etc.), it's not criminal.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  19. mercjh

    I think he is making the correct decision. I remember playing back yard football with a really tough girl in college and she ended up breaking her collar bone on a moderately tough hit. Even though I did not hit her, definately felt guilty about letting her play. It is apples and oranges in regard to strength and vulnerability to injury.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • ozzi7

      Girls get hurt in sports all the time: tennis, field hockey, basketball, gymnastics and cheer-leading (not a sport but should be). There isn't any difference who hurts the girl during a sporting event. You aren't squeamish when a guy gets hurt? You guys need to get over that.

      Now abusing a girl (or guy) is different. That's intentional and a criminal act. You all need to learn the difference.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • mercjh

      You are right ozzi7 I cannot get over the idea of hurting a female, call me crazy

      February 17, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • jamesmadison

      Why do you feel guilty? She chose to play with you, knowing that she could get hurt. The notion that women are fragile and need men to protect them no longer matters in modern society. If this were another guy who broke his collar bone, would you feel the same guilt? Probably not. Feminism demands equality, so give it to them and get rid of your guilt.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  20. Anthony

    What if he meets this young woman in the next round? Will he forfeit this as well?

    February 17, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Sherrie

      in the article:

      "Black lost her opening-round match and moved to the consolation bracket. If both Northrup and Black win twice in the consolation bracket, they will be paired in the third round, forcing Northrup again to decide whether to wrestle a girl."

      My bet is he would forfeit again.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • mercjh

      that is what it looks like he will have to do, rubber meets the road

      February 17, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.